If you’re easily offended, or feel that Freemasonry is perfect as it is, then this post will only act to upset you. Click here to remain oblivious to reality.
In my earlier post Life Cycles of Lodges I began the process of addressing the many issues faced by modern Freemasonry. This post is a continuation of those ideas, but it focuses on the serious problem of membership retention. While many openly admit that there’s a membership problem, they assume it’s due to a lack of interest in Freemasonry. However, the statistics reveal that the real problem isn’t obtaining new members, but retaining them. The fraternity loses roughly 90% of all new members within 24 months. Why?
Animal Farm Masonry
People join the Masonic fraternity for a wide variety of reasons, but in the end they expect it to be a brotherhood based on moral principles and equality. What they soon discover is something more akin to George Orwell’s Animal Farm. They are told that all Masons are equal, and that they meet on the Level and part on the Square, but they soon observe that all Masons are equal, only some are more equal than others. The plethora of honorary degrees, titles, and invitational organizations has resulted in an elite class of Masons who feel entitled to more privilege than that of the lowly Master Mason. Due to this, Freemasonry has devolved from the ideal of a brotherhood of all mankind into a quest for honors, titles and privilege. Ironically, every candidate is informed that Freemasonry is not a place to seek after frivolous honors, titles, and privileges.
While this system may have served the fraternity well during the 19th century, it is a boat anchor in the age of social networking. It makes the high ideals of Freemasonry appear to be nothing more than a convenient lie. This in turn brings into question the moral credibility of the entire institution.
Millennials and Generation X members walk away in disgust and tell their friends about Animal Farm Freemasonry, but not the true spirit of Freemasonry, because they never had the opportunity to experienced it.
Every lodge has one or more bullies who feel it is their right to not only criticize new members, but control every facet of how a lodge operates. They all use familiar arguments such as “We’ve always done it this way.” When confronted with changes their threat of last resort is “I’m calling the Grand Lodge!” These men are not real Masons. They don’t even understand the meaning of brotherhood. The only solution to this problem is to expel the bullies, thereby restoring a sense of brotherhood in the lodges.
The bully problem is closely connected to the Animal Farm mentality that has been accepted as the norm in modern Freemasonry. The bullies are almost always a part of some elite or supposedly honorary Masonic body. There are, however, other cases where the bully takes great pride in being a simple “Master Mason”, and because he has not allowed himself to become “polluted” by the doctrine of elitism, he becomes the self-sacrificing man that demands honor and privilege for his sacrifice.
Bullies, in any form, destroy the spirit of brotherhood, and thereby Freemasonry.
Ugly lodge politics is closely related to both of the problems listed above. The result is always a loss of members.
New members are almost always rushed into the officer line of the lodge and presented with the idea that if they do all the memory work they will advance to the chair in the east. Unfortunately, this isn’t always they case. Sometimes they get voted out of the line because they have advocated for changes or upset a Past Master.
If someone has spent years memorizing the work and they are stopped from advancing they will feel cheated. What kind of brotherhood cheats its members out of things they have worked hard to achieve?
The rules forbid politics in lodge. Enforce the rules and expel those who bring ugly politics into your lodge.
Unwillingness to Change
The world has changed tremendously since 1717, and Freemasonry continued to evolved along with it up until approximately 1963. At this point in time “Change” became a dirty word to Freemasons. The result has been catastrophic.
Freemasonry needs to adapt to the society in which it exists, or face being ignored and persecuted for folly. While the high ideals of brotherhood and morality should never be sacrificed, archaic ideas and old conventions must be abandoned to make way for the new. Life itself is a constant flow of changes. Why do some Freemasons feel that Freemasonry is exempt from change?
Animal Farm Freemasonry, Masonic Bullies, and Unwillingness to Change are the three top reasons why modern Freemasonry has a membership retention problem. Solving these problems requires a great deal of soul searching on the part of the leadership of the fraternity, and a willingness to take meaningful action on the part of the membership. The future can be bright if Masons are willing to face the challenges ahead with an open mind and a firm resolve to do what’s required for success.
People want to be part of a true brotherhood that operates with moral conviction, and expresses a philosophy that leads to virtue and self-improvement. Freemasonry can be that brotherhood if enough Masons want it to be.